Langston Hughes and John Kennedy essay

Introduction

Langston Hughes was renowned writer during the Harlem renaissance, a time in which the slavery and segregation based on race and color was evident in American society. He holds the title for fighting for the rights of African Americans through literature. He is a columnist, novelist, social activists, playwright, as well as a poet. He is often known to have adversely advocated for the rights of the African Americans.  During his early life, racism was evident within America and many people that would not endured, including his father, left. Hughes was raised purely by the grandmother, who through oral traditions and activists experiences, instill in him a racial pride. While in high school he was elected a class poet based on the fact that he was a Negro. It is high school that he began to write short stories and poetry, and his first poetry was ‘when Sue wears red’. He was also a strong critic of people like Alain LeRoy Locke, W.E.B Du Bois, and Jessie Redmond Fauset whom he felt overly assimilated eurocentric values and culture in their bid to attain social equality.

 

In most of his writing, he endeavored to expose the low lives that the black Americans were subjected and the inherent prejudice based on skin color among the black community. He portrayed that the lives of black community was filled with struggles, laughter and joy. This earned him critics among a section of the blacks who thought that he was giving a bad image of blacks to the public. However, his major works portrayed the pride he had in the African American identity and culture. For instance, in his poem entitled ‘My people’, he explicitly adores the black community and brings out the aspect of human importance despite skin color. He compares the faces of blacks with the night, their eyes with the stars, and their souls with the sun. In using these starry hosts, Hughes wants the audience to acknowledge that blacks are also important creatures and thus should be treated equally like the rest in the society. 

Because of his pride in black aesthetic and diverse black folk culture, Hughes became a source of inspiration to many black artists. He wanted the black writers to be objective regarding their race and not to be scornful or flee from it. He always championed for racial consciousness which largely influenced foreign black writers including Jacques Roumain. His advocacy of racial consciousness helped in unifying the people of African descent globally an encouraged them to pride in their diverse culture and aesthetics. His emphasis on jazz and folk rhythm as the basis for his poetry of racial pride coupled with his social attitude inspired the Negro movement in France. In his first novel, ‘Not without Laughter’, Hughes portrays a young boy named Sandy whose family struggled a lot because of their race and class. Similarly, his first collection of short stories ‘The Ways of White Folks’, revealed the sardonic realism and tragic race relations between the whites and the blacks.  Politically, he believed in communism as a better alternative to segregation.

John F. Kennedy is an American author who also became 35th president before his assassination in the year 1963. Kennedy lived in various parts of Washington DC during his early days. His first house was located in the 31th street between 1947. Kennedy lived in this house with three other occupants. He was the Massachusetts representative during this period. He lived with Eunice and Billy. Kennedy later lived in the thirty fourth streets up to 1953. During his stay in the 34th street he was a member of the congress. His stay at Washington continued till 1960 when his role changed from senator to president of the United States of America. He actually moved from the P Street to the white house after his 1960 election victory. Kennedy’s life was influenced by the events at Washington. Washington was the political and economic headquarter of the United States. The politics of the day influenced his writings in the 1956 book release titled profiles in courage. This book illustrates details of eight senators who defied odds to stand against negative policy in government. This book was inspired by events in Washington while serving as a representative. Kennedy later authored a book called a nation of immigrants in the year 1958. This book also took a political dimension by advocating for amendment of the law on immigrants. As a politician most of his thoughts must have been on policy and legislation. He used literature to voice his opinions to win approval of many law makers.

John F. Kennedy’s literature was predominantly political in nature. He grew up in an environment that was politically charged. His grandparents were politicians of the ancient America. Such political inclinations influenced his literature. Kennedy’s writing skills were evident right from college where he helped produce a school newsletter called freshman smoker in the year 1936. Kennedy was later to enter into a competitive lifestyle through sports. He participated in swimming, football and golf. All the championships prepared him for political contest in his future life.  Kennedy later joined his father in London during his university study. His father was serving in the American embassy in London from 1938. While in London, Kennedy helped his father with his assignments. Working closely with his father further brought him close to politics. He could hear and interact closely with the political elite while in the ambassadorial office. Kennedy also had a chance to travel to many nations during his research on academic thesis. He travelled to the Middle East, South Africa and the Soviet Union before the release of the thesis. It is evident that Kennedy’s interest in politics was growing while still in college. He opted to study political philosophy while at Harvard senior class. The political culture of his parents coupled by social orientation made him write his thesis on British and Munich agreement. This thesis created news lines and was one of the best sellers in the American history.

John Kennedy and Langston Hughes lived within the same span of period in America. Hughes lived between 1902 and 1967 while Kennedy lived between 1917 and 1963. Hughes stayed in D.C for only one year and relocated to New York. The two authors were affected by the cultural perspectives of the American society during that time. Specifically, the cultural issues that the two authors dealt with extensively were racial segregation and abolition of slavery. While addressing the State Union for the first time, he publicly supported equal treatment of all American citizens in every aspects of the society. However, he distanced himself from any civil right movement because of the fear of Southern Conservatives who formed majority of the Congress representatives. He was also faulted during the construction of Kinzua Dam which led to relocation of the black Americans.

Conclusion

Both Hughes and Kennedy were opposed to segregation laws. Particularly, Kennedy showed great support to the civil rights movements of the African Americans. However, he was constrained by the Southern Conservatives who formed part of his congress. From this perspective, it is clear that Hughes had a stronger urge for liberation of the blacks since he identified with their struggles unlike Kennedy who feared opinion of his Congress. The demonstrations led by Martin Luther King Jnr compelled him to call for the denouncement of racism and termed it (racism) as morally wrong. The two authors were very influential in the history of American literature.

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Langston Hughes and John Kennedy essay

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